Both Pastor Bruce and I went to seminary in Atlanta at the Candler School of Theology. I really enjoyed those three years in Atlanta. In particular, there were two highlights about the seminary that I really loved.
The first one was the Pitts Theological Library. I don’t know if it still is, but when I was there it was the second largest theological library in the country – second only to Yale’s library. Very often, I would just disappear into the stacks of books and not be seen for days. It was glorious. The smell of all those old books made my heart flutter.
The second highlight for me was Fred Craddock. Dr. Craddock is a world-renowned preacher and preaching instructor. He’s now retired from Candler, but while he was there he was an institution. If you attended seminary at Candler, learning how to preach under Dr. Craddock was a “must.”
One of the things that Dr. Craddock taught us, something that’s always stayed with me, came from a story that he told. He shared with us a little of a conversation that he had with one of his former students who had graduated and who was serving a little rural church.
His former student was telling Dr. Craddock that he was going to wake that little country church up. He was going to bring them into the present. He was going to be new and fresh. As an example of this, he wasn’t going to preach the same old tired stuff during Christmas… stuff that they all knew. He was going to hit them with something new.
Dr. Craddock lovingly, and I’m sure, convincingly, shared with this new preacher that what those people needed (what we all need) and especially during seasons of Advent and Lent, is the old, old story of what God has done in Christ.
It’s not, of course, that you don’t preach to where people are. It’s not that you seek to be irrelevant. But, I believe, a clear and honest preaching of the old, old story is the most relevant subject there is. You see, what I mean, what Dr. Craddock meant, what the hymns communicate to us, and what the Bible says to us… is that the “old, old story” is the Gospel – or Good News – about Jesus Christ.
Here’s how the hymn, “Victory in Jesus,” communicates the old, old story…
I heard an old, old story,
how a Savior came from glory,
how he gave his life on Calvary
to save a wretch like me;
I heard about his groaning,
of his precious blood’s atoning,
then I repented of my sins
and won the victory.
O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever!
he sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood;
he loved me ere I knew him, and all my love is due him;
he plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.
That’s the old, old story.
In the following posts I want to communicate two important truths. First, I want to communicate that the “old, old story,” is a lot older than most of us think. And second, I want to make sure by the time I’m done, that we all know what the “old, old story” is, and why I call it the Heart of Christianity.
Grace and Truth,
Based on selected Scripture
Adapted from a sermon preached September 5, 2010